I have watched all three seasons of this British police procedural TV series. Each season has a self-contained story and consists of six episodes spread over 4.5 hours and is one of the best of such shows that I have seen. I fancy myself as a connoisseur of such detective shows and like most connoisseurs have strong likes and dislikes. I heartily dislike violence and gore and find action sequences such as chases and fights to be boring. They seem to me to be a cheap way of generating interest to compensate for weak plots and poor writing, acting, and directing. I like shows where the focus is on the process of detection and this show definitely fits the bill.
I also dislike shows where the detectives are highly quirky, because they quickly become tiresome. For example, I watched a few episodes of the highly acclaimed detective show Monk but found his mannerisms (he is an obsessive-compulsive germophobe) to be so highly irritating that I could not go on. Many detectives like Sherlock Holmes, Columbo, and Hercule Poirot are quirky and skirt close to the edge of being so annoying that I give up on them.
I also dislike the odd-couple pairing of the main detective and assistant, where they are two extremes or have either strong antagonistic stances or a romantic attraction. The lives of the detectives should not be the main source of drama. I also dislike stories where the detectives’ families play an outsize role and particularly detest shows where they actually get involved in the investigations or, even worse, are suspects. The families should be in the background as a way of filling in the detectives’ characters or for expository purposes or to provide some humor.
All this explains why I like Unforgettable so much. It features excellent ensemble acting with Nicola Walker as the lead detective and Sanjeev Bhaskar as her assistant and they both lead a team of competent professionals who go about their work methodically and without any fuss. Their team investigates very cold cases, usually when the remains of a body are found decades after the murder. I like one feature where, after questioning a character, Walker and Bhaskar discuss whether they think the person was telling the truth and why.
The storyline begins with following various people whose lives seem to be unconnected to one another but as the story evolves we see that their lives intersected at the time of the murder and they become disconcerted as they find that something that had happened long ago and had been thought a closed chapter suddenly becomes open again. We see the painstaking work that goes into identifying the victim and trying to piece together what happened long after the fact. The writers avoid what has become a cliché of the genre, where a casual remark by someone causes the brilliant detective to have a flash of insight in which everything falls into place and the mystery is solved. Also junior members of the team contribute important information and insights, making it truly a team effort.
The story is told without any action or glitz or violence and stated that way it sounds boring but it is not. It is utterly gripping. The writers also forego the common detective story trope of springing a complete surprise ending on the viewer. That effort requires other characters to behave in implausible ways so as to draw attention to themselves and divert attention from the actual criminal until the final denouement. In these stories, the truth is slowly uncovered so that the final revelation is not shocking but satisfying nonetheless.
In the third season, they also look at the poisonous effects of online culture where people, for the sake of garnering ‘likes’ and hits and fame, inflame the situation by wild speculations, leveling accusations against people and creating a ‘public enemy’ mindset, instigating vigilante violence against those are fingered as the criminal without any real evidence. This is unfortunately a very real phenomenon.
Here is the trailer to season three.